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Goleta Officials Split on Endorsing Isla Vista Self-Governance Bill, Take No Position

Goleta officials were split on whether to back a proposed Isla Vista self-governance bill, joining a list of local leaders who have yet to support the legislation introduced by Assemblyman Das Williams late last year.

After two Goleta City Council votes failed 2-2 — to take no action and to continue the item until a May 19 meeting — the resolution in favor of Assembly Bill 3 died on the floor with no action at Tuesday's meeting.

AB3 aims to create a Community Services District to govern Isla Vista, the densely populated community of about 23,000 living on less than one square mile adjacent to UC Santa Barbara and Goleta, currently under the care of the county. 

Mayor Paula Perotte was absent Tuesday, which presented a problem. Perotte, who was out ill, was the one who proposed the resolution and called the special meeting.

Her vote could’ve swung the council in favor of an endorsement, which councilmen Jim Farr and Michael Bennett seemed ready to propose.

Councilmen Roger Aceves and Tony Vallejo opposed AB3, wanting to see a financial analysis and involve Santa Barbara County’s Local Agency Formation Commission in the formation process before giving assent.

Isla Vista is Goleta’s neighbor, so Williams suggested Goleta City Council consider a resolution of support ahead of next Wednesday, when he will present AB3 to the State Assembly Committee on Local Government.

The bill must make it out of committee to be up for a vote by June.

Isla Vista residents could then vote on whether to approve the CSD after the County Board of Supervisors puts it on the ballot.

So far, AB3 has faced somewhat of an uphill battle, embraced by community members who have attended town hall meetings to determine bill language but shirked by members of the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, who aren’t thrilled the legislation would usurp its authority to form a CSD.

Officials also remember when locals voted down past Isla Vista cityhood attempts in 1972, 1975 and 1983.

Within AB3, community members call for community services that include a tenant mediation program, the ability to contract for additional police services, and the ability to exercise the powers of a parking district. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department provides law enforcement for the community now. 

Stakeholders — most of whom rent housing in Isla Vista — are also interested in a Utility User Tax to financially support the CSD by imposing a tax for utility services consumed, such as electricity, gas, water, sewer, sanitation and cable television.

Since some of those services don’t exist under current CSD law, LAFCO couldn’t authorize a district to provide them.

About a dozen bill supporters, many of them UCSB students, asked the Goleta City Council to endorse AB3, but a handful of Isla Vista property and business owners said they weren’t on board with bill language.

AB3 calls for a seven-member CSD board, with five elected at large from within the district, one appointed by the County Board of Supervisors and one appointed by UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang.

Just about everyone agreed Isla Vista should be able to govern itself.

“It has some very unique issues,” Bennett said, conceding AB3 wasn’t perfect but was better than the status quo.

He said the challenges Isla Vista still faces were exactly why Goleta residents decided against including the area when it incorporated in 2002.

“We don’t know what we’re approving,” Vallejo said of ever-changing bill language.

Farr said if UCSB and county supervisors seemed supportive of AB3, he should be, too, saying, “Isla Vista is everybody’s problem on the South Coast.”

Seeing that a deadlock was imminent, council members tried to rally support for sending a letter to the legislature before next week’s hearing, but no consensus could be reached.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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